Last night I came up from the B train at Rockefeller Center at 49th, on the west side of the street. There were some folks coming down the steps so I walked up the staircase looking up, instead of down - the way most of us walk around New York most of the time. I've lived here for five full years now (five years, one week and two days to be exact). I never realized that at night from that vantage point of that stairwell one gets an amazing view of the Empire State building, one of the great buildings of the world. Of course it made me smile. New York - like life itself - is full of new opportunities, which are often missed if one is not looking up, as it were, for them.
I believe there are going to continue to be new opportunities for Saint Mary’s as I look out and up at our Church and our world. Two parables. Many readers of this newsletter know that Matthew is my least favorite gospel, but it contains the two parables that speak to me the most. First, my single favorite is the Merchant and the Pearl of Great Value (Matthew 13:45). Jesus said to his disciples,
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
My second favorite is the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Again, Jesus is speaking to his disciples.
For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
It is easy to find people who have one talent and who are afraid, people who see the glass as half-empty, never as half-full. Sometimes I can look in the mirror and see a person who is afraid. But Saint Mary’s would never have existed if those who were afraid had been in charge in 1868 when the parish was founded or in 1894 when the decision to build our second and present church was taken. It’s never been economically viable, but it has been a place where heaven meets earth and where all are welcome.
As I have written and spoke repeatedly in the past five years, any rational person would look at our balance sheet and quit. I know the temptation very well. People of faith have never done that in this place. Saint Mary’s is a place where people have risked the substance of the hearts and their treasure so that the doors can remain open and the gospel lived and shared. There will be new ways for us to live our Christian faith. I think it starts with each of us with the help of each other and the Holy Spirit.
Some people will never risk what they have. They won’t even try. I for one don’t think one can live without risk. How do we know when we are being asked to look at our present and our future in a new way? One important sign that the Holy Sprit is trying to lead us is how we treat each other when we are looking at something new and others don’t see it or are afraid. The heart of those who risk looking up and forward is key and, again, so is the way we approach one another with what we see and want to share.
Saint Mary’s is always changing. That’s essential to it being a pearl of great value. I wonder what it would look like for us to be like the person who risked five talents, or even more, the person who risked all ten. What is God calling us to risk for his kingdom at Saint Mary’s, to keep the doors open for all? Together at God’s Table let us eat, pray and listen for his Word. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Jean, Lynn, Alfred, Nancy, Margaret, Jay, Mabel, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Billie, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, Mary Angela, religious, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, and Colin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 25: 1995 Giselle Klopstock; January 28: 1987 Wan Tang Jou.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Nehemiah 8:2-10, Psalm 113, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Luke 4:14-21 . . .Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 24, by Father Beddingfield . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 31, by Father Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: At Evensong, Sunday, February 1, our preacher is the Reverend Allen Shin, our former curate. He continues his doctoral work at Oxford and is serving as honorary assistant priest at All Saints Margaret Street . . . Sean Cassidy is scheduled to have surgery on Monday, January 26. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Attendance last Sunday 261.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by parishioner Dale Bonenberger, the prelude is Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750) and the postlude is Trumpet Tune in C from Ten Voluntaries, Op. 5 by John Stanley (1712-1786). Many thanks to Mr. Bonenberger, a gifted organist, who is willing to play for our Sung Mass on occasion! This week at the Solemn Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Andante from Sonata No. 7 by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) and the postlude is Tuba Tune in D by Craig Sellar Lang (1891-1971). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Bell’ amfitrit’ altera’ by Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594). This parody Mass for double choir is one of Lassus’ best known and most loved. The motet at Communion is O bone Jesu, generally attributed to Loyset Compère (c. 1445-1518). The French-born Compère is well known as a chanson and motet composer . . . We continue our series of organ recitals at 4:40. This week Ms. Margret Bóasdóttir, soprano and Mr. Guðmundur Sigurdsson, organ, present a program of sacred music from their native Iceland. Both Ms. Bóasdóttir and Mr. Sigurdsson live and work in Iceland, and their recital will introduce us to this marvelous music that is not well known outside of their country.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle
Tuesday John Chrysostom, bishop
Wednesday Thomas Aquinas, priest & doctor
Friday Charles, king & martyr Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.